MARTINSBURG - Although a bill to block the EPA's and Army of Corps of Engineers' Waters of the United States rule failed in the U.S. Senate, Cam Tabb is pleased with the effort.
"I'm tickled to death - for a change, someone was working for our interests, and it was a nonpartisan effort - that's great," Tabb said Thursday in a telephone interview.
His family has farmed in Jefferson County for several generations and he has been an outspoken opponent of the Waters of the United States, or WOTUS, rule.
According to its critics, WOTUS would impose onus regulations on farmers' use of agricultural lands through which even wet-weather streams pass or rainwater ponds. WOTUS essentially would bring all bodies of water - even seasonal, ephemeral bodies of water - under regulation by the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers by authority of the Clean Water Act.
On Monday, U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., voted for the Federal Water Quality Protection Act, which Manchin co-sponsored. The bill would have required the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to rewrite the WOTUS rule following consultation with states, local governments and small businesses, such as farmers, that would be impacted by the rule.
The bill was blocked from moving forward in the Senate when supporters of the legislation could not get the 60 votes needed to close debate on the bill, known as cloture. The cloture vote was 57-41.
On Wednesday, the Senate passed by a vote of 53-44 a resolution of disapproval to nullify the WOTUS rule under the Congressional Review Act, which only requires a simple majority to pass. It would need Pres. Barack Obama's approval, which it would be unlikely to get as Obama supports the WOTUS rule.
Manchin and Capito voted for the resolution.
"The EPA wrote and finalized this rule without consulting some of the people who care about clean water the most: everyday West Virginians and Americans," Manchin said in news release about his vote on the resolution. "This overreaching rule would impose a heavy financial burden on all of us and would lead to interruptions on a myriad of economic activities in West Virginia, including highway and road construction, farming and a variety of public works projects."
In a news release, Capito said about her vote on the resolution, "West Virginia's farmers, small businesses, energy producers and agriculture community have shared their concerns with me about the burdens and uncertainty this regulation would impose. Protecting our drinking water sources and precious natural resources is a goal we all support, but the WOTUS rule would lead to a massive expansion of costly permitting requirements, hampering farmers and rural communities and subjecting small puddles and ditches to the same regulations as large lakes and rivers. These are costs West Virginia's already struggling economy cannot afford."
On Oct. 9, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati issued a nationwide stay on enforcing the WOTUS rule. Judges David W. McKeague and Richard Allen Griffin wrote the majority opinion. Judge Damon J. Keith dissented.
McKeague and Griffin found that until the WOTUS rule is clarified in court, enforcing it should be halted, according to published reports.
Keith questioned whether the court has jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act to review the WOTUS rule, according to reports.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey had joined more than 30 states and agencies in the suit to halt the enforcement of the WOTUS rule.
"We have said from the beginning that this new rule does not pass legal muster, and had it been allowed to remain in effect, homeowners, farmers and a host of other entities across our state would have found themselves subject to costly regime of new, complicated federal regulations," Morrisey said in a news release about the court's ruling. "This solidly reaffirms our belief that we have a strong case on the merits and that the courts will ultimately strike down this burdensome regulation."
U.S. Rep. Alex X. Mooney, R-W.Va., also supported the court's ruling.
"This is a major win for farmers, businesses and families in West Virginia," he said in a news release about the court's ruling. "The Environmental Protection Agency's harmful WOTUS rule is detrimental to our communities in West Virginia and across the country."
Tabb acknowledged that with the court case still pending and the unsuccessful vote in the Senate to block the rule, the issue is not yet decided.
"But these things are an action," he said. "Maybe it will get more minds to thinking about it. If it's needed, it should be hashed out and the details should be reasonable. In the short term, I'm pleased and very pleased that it was bi-partisan."